Spitting up, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, is common in babies. It's so common that in many cases, it's considered to be normal.

Spitting up, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, is common in babies. It's so common that in many cases, it's considered to be normal.

When babies swallow, their sphincters, which keeps foods in their stomachs, are not as effective as they are in adults. This can cause some formula or food to come back up from the stomach to the feeding pipe, causing the baby to spit up.

Most babies outgrow the problem by the time they are about 12 months old, but some babies have more long-term problems with reflux.

If your child frequently spits up, several things can be done at home to help your baby. If the reflux is mild, you can add antacids to the bottle or give your child his or her formula thickened. Placing your baby in a car seat or swing after eating may make the reflux worse, since your child can slide down, putting pressure on the abdomen. Instead, try to hold your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after he or she eats. If your baby's reflux is more severe, he or she may need medicine to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach.

Complications from reflux can result in heartburn, failure to gain weight and breathing problems. Infants with reflux may have poor growth because they don't eat enough due to discomfort from reflux, or vomit too much of their formula. They also may have weight problems because they haven't been given enough formula by parents in a well-intended attempt to decrease vomiting. Babies with reflux also may get food in their lungs when they spit up or swallow, causing wheezing (or in rare cases, pneumonia).

Although most babies with reflux do not require treatment, if your child has any of the complications mentioned above (heartburn, trouble gaining weight or breathing problems), you should consult your family doctor. Your doctor will design a treatment to relieve the symptoms that are causing the most problems, whether it's irritability from heartburn, poor growth or breathing difficulties. Remember that even if your child has a reflux problem that needs professional help, it is very likely that it will go away as he or she gets older.